Rafa Roundup: “After 13 years and 10 titles at Roland Garros, Nadal hasn’t discovered his limit”

Photo by Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

ARTICLES:

A Better Showing Than Tuesday: This is the norm with Rafa: He starts off slowly at Grand Slams and builds momentum. The first two rounds have been a feeling-out process. He’s not at his best yet, but as the level of competition improves, so will his level of play.

Room For Improvement: Again, the score sheet doesn’t tell the whole story. Nadal was aggressive and played well, but he didn’t dominate throughout, as the final score suggests. He’s settling down, set by set, but he still has a way to go.

“Being 100 per cent honest with you, I think is a good rule, because there is a lot of money on the Slams. For a lot of players, that they are inside the tournament of a Grand Slam and they have a physical problem in that week, just playing tournament helps a lot to save the year,” said Nadal.

“So I believe is fair that if they are inside and they have the chance to retire than keep winning the money is win to win, no? The tournament wins because there is no bad players or sick players playing, and for them, he deserve, because he made the right things to be there and he deserve that prize money so they still get it.”

Noah, the only French man since 1946 to win at Roland Garros when he beat Wilander in the 1983 final, says you have to think outside of the box to beat Nadal.

“I’d serve under arm and I’d hit only drop shots,” he jokes in an interview with Cash for CNN’s Open Court at Roland Garros.

“And if he’s at the net I’d hit it at him. You have to try something.”

Afterward, Rafa was asked in Spanish how an athlete knows what his “limit”—his top level—is.

“I think this famous limit doesn’t exist because we don’t know where it is,” he said.

“But there certainly is a limit, but I can’t think there is one because I don’t know where it is. I don’t know. We can’t decide where it is.”

After 13 years and 10 titles at Roland Garros, Nadal hasn’t discovered his limit. But along the way he’s helped a lot of his opponents including, Pella, find theirs.

While his forehand is explosive and his backhand is relentless, it’s possible Nadal’s greatest advantage is that he turns an element of the game that’s a weakness for so many others into a weapon: the second serve. He has had more success on his second serve than any player in tennis history, and on clay, his prowess here is even more pronounced.

In his career, Nadal has won 56.7 percent of his second-serve points on clay. In the past year, he’s upped that percentage to 66.4 percent. For most pro players, anything better than break-even on second serve is considered good. Nadal has taken the safety net of the sport and turned it into a battle ax.

VIDEO: 

Advertisements

Rafa Roundup: The Secret To Rafa’s Success?

REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

ARTICLES:

“I think it takes a combination of things—a good mentality, a passion for what to do, love of sport, a little bit of luck and finally, the constant desire to improve, to have that on court every day,” Nadal told Le Figaro in an interview published in French. “During the years, you gradually decline in some things, you have to keep adding [others] to stay competitive. This is for me the key to this longevity and this success—even more at Roland Garros, 10 times.”

“I have always worked with a lot of intensity. My uncle pushed me to work hard every day with intensity from a young age. When you have grown up with this, it is easier to keep it,” Nadal said.

“I’m feeling good,” said Nadal, who had suffered from a right hip injury earlier in the year. “Of course, after a very tough start to the season with two injuries, I’ve managed to come back and play very well. I’ve played a lot of matches this season and have had good success. Every tournament is different, and here in Paris we’re trying to get in some solid practices so that I’m fit and ready for my first match. I want to be as competitive as I can be from the start.”

Alex Corteja: “Rafael Nadal is the closest thing to the perfect machine on clay. He is a tough opponent on all surfaces, but on clay – and on the Philippe Chatrier Court in particular – it is like playing a giant.

Physically, Rafa can reach so many balls. He moves opponents from side to side, can open up the court on both his forehand and backhand wings and changes down the line. He knows how to deal with the wind, which can blow hard in Paris, and accepts situations better than anyone.”

Rafa, Rafa, Rafa. Need we say more? It goes without saying Rafael Nadal is the overwhelming favorite to win an 11th French Open title, extending his own record. Heading into Roland Garros, he won four of five clay-court tune-up events. According to Ladbrokes, Nadal is a 2-5 favorite to win the French, meaning if you bet on him to win, you’re not going to make a whole lot of money.

After winning 50 consecutive sets on clay, Rafael Nadal is glad to have been pushed hard in Rome:

“… In Rome I had plenty of these moments. I came back after [losing] a set against Fognini. Then I played a very tough first set against Novak in the semifinals, and the final had a little bit of everything. But coming back, too, that’s situations that helps to keep going, to keep being confident, and to get used to play this difficult moments that the normal thing is you have these difficult moments in our sport.”

Rafa In Form: Nadal, who turns 32 on 3 June, is 19-1 on clay this season with his 11th Monte-Carlo, 11th Barcelona and eighth Rome titles. He must win his 11th Roland Garros title to remain No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Otherwise, Roger Federer will resume as World No. 1 on 11 June. From last year’s event on the terre battue until this year’s Rome quarter-finals, Nadal won 50 consecutive sets on clay, a record for most sets won in a row on a single surface.

The man who lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday 11 June will not do so because it was inevitable, or predestined, or any other silly linguistic convenience. If that man is Nadal, his 11th victory will be astonishing precisely because he is not invincible, not because he is.

But even with Roger Federer sitting out this year’s tournament and Juan Martin del Potro an injury-filled question mark, there are players in the draw who have either done well at Roland Garros in the past, fared well against Nadal or have played well enough on clay this season to merit consideration as a challenger to the King of Clay.

VIDEOS:

Uncle Toni pays emotional tribute to Rafael Nadal

Toni Nadal has paid tribute to his nephew Rafa for his dedication and efforts during their time together. The duo have won 16 Grand Slams, 30 Masters Series titles, two Olympic gold medals, and the Davis Cup on four occasions.

Our champ will continue on the ATP Tour with coaches Carlos Moya and Francisco Roig, while uncle Toni will take up work in his nephew’s academy.

 

Julian Finney/Getty Images 

Uncle Toni wrote in Spanish outlet El Pais:

The Masters Cup of this last week has been the finishing touch to my career as coach of my nephew Rafael. I conclude a happy period of 27 years that began the day when the son of my brother Sebastian entered my tennis court at only three years old. ‘Today I leave your side but my path does not end here. I will continue to be linked to tennis because my enthusiasm and love for this sport, fortunately, remain intact.

From the beginning of my nephew’s tennis career I tried to develop a strong and decisive character in him in order to face the difficulties of tennis in particular and of life in general, with which I have always considered that there is a common denominator.

Finally, and in a very special way, I must acknowledge and thank greatly, the person most responsible for my luck: my nephew Rafael.

The relationship with him has always been uncharacteristically easy within the world in which we move. Thanks to his education, respect and passion I have been able to unfold my way of understanding this profession.

Thanks to him I have lived experiences that have surpassed all my dreams as a coach. I have travelled by his side to incredible sites and I have met relevant and interesting people from many fields.

Today I feel greatly valued and loved because his figure has magnified mine much more than I deserve.

Source: metro.co.uk

Rafa Roundup: The numbers don’t lie – Rafael Nadal is much more than King of Clay

ARTICLES:

The Spaniard now has a combined 46 ‘Big Titles’ — a collection of Grand Slams, Masters 1000 events, and Nitto ATP Finals — putting him one behind Novak Djokovic’s 47 and within five of leader Roger Federer, who holds 51.

#7 He’s the first to pass $10 million in prize money in 2017. Nadal now has $11,264,905 for the year, jumping over Federer, who currently has $9,419,735. Third place is Zverev with $3,570,885.

The significance of this season is impossible to sum up with a stat sheet alone. Coming off a 2016 season in which he suffered his second wrist injury in three seasons and was forced to withdraw from the French Open after the second round, Nadal’s 10th win at Roland Garros in June was especially sweet. It was his first Grand Slam title since the 2014 French.

The Spaniard’s fans can muster plenty of evidence to support the case for their hero as the greatest player of all time, but the three-major deficit is a challenging disadvantage to surmount. One of the best arguments left to Mr Nadal’s supporters is that Mr Federer padded his statistics in the weak era of 2003-07, before Mr Djokovic and Mr Murray reached their primes, and when a young Mr Nadal was primarily a threat on clay courts.

It has been an incredible year, with Federer winning in Australia and at Wimbledon, where he won the title for an eighth time, and Nadal adding the US Open title to his 10th French Open crown.

Nadal is in the driving seat when it comes to No.1, with a lead of almost 2,000 points, but he knows there is still a lot to play for in the remaining two months of the season.

Q: “There is still a lot of tennis to be played, but at this moment, who is your men’s player of the year?” John Wertheim: We were debating this on Tennis Channel. I lean toward Nadal. Higher ranked. More Slam matches won. And—while it was validated by the Wimbledon title—doesn’t Federer earn some sort of markdown for his decision to skip the entire clay season? Jim Courier sided with Federer, citing the 3-0 head-to-head record. Honestly, I could go either way.

“Can Rafa beat Roger’s record? Basically it’s up to Rafa and how much he wants to play and how much he loves the game,” said Sampras, who sits third on the men’s all-time Grand Slam winners’ list behind Nadal and Federer. “If he said: ‘Hey guys, I’m gonna play until I’m at least 35’, I’d say he’s got a pretty good shot at doing it.

“There aren’t many challenges left, but there are some. He is a very competitive person, a very demanding person and that helps a lot. He will keep finding motivation and his biggest motivation will be to keep improving, keep evolving, stay competitive and he knows that if he can do that, the options to win tournaments and fight at the top will be there.”

“I think that Nadal has a very good chance to catch Roger because he’s gonna win the French Open again at least once or twice and suddenly you’re one or two away,” said Wilander.

”Do we think that Federer is going to win another slam next year when he turns 37? I don’t know. He can win another one maybe but Nadal has another four or five years and people are wrong when they think that he’s physically wearing himself down.”

“I always go on court respecting my opponents. I’m not worried about what happened in the past or not. I just think about what can happen now.” – Rafael Nadal

‘We will get to Federer’s 19, yes,’ he told Spanish radio station Cope.

‘I think it will happen. It’s difficult, but there is some more Roland Garros and I am confident other titles will come.

VIDEOS:

Rafa Roundup: We are not ready to say goodbye yet, Uncle Toni!

Al Bello/Getty Images

ARTICLES:

“I am honestly not thinking about it being the last one,” Toni Nadal said. “I’m not in the beyond. I’m entirely in the present right now, very happy to be in the final and that Rafael is in another final. I’m not thinking about not being here next year. I’ll think about it next year when I’m in Majorca. Nostalgia is for then, not for now.”

Toni and Rafael have been a pair like no other in the modern game. Toni was Rafael’s first teacher, giving him his first lesson at age 3 on the Spanish island of Majorca that the Nadals still call home. Toni has remained Rafael’s mentor for the last 28 years as Rafael has become one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Nadal, who reclaimed the top spot on August 21, is defending just 100 ranking points after the US Open: 90 for a quarterfinal showing in Beijing, and 10 for a round-of-32 loss at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 in Shanghai.

The 31-year-old’s only real competition for No. 1 is the 36-year-old Federer, who will move past Andy Murray and into the No. 2 spot on Monday. Like Nadal, Federer has a great opportunity to amass ranking points this fall. While Nadal has practically nothing to defend, Federer actually has nothing to defend, given his decision to end his 2016 season after Wimbledon.

Nadal is attempting to win at least two Grand Slam titles in a season for the fourth time in his career (3 in 2010, 2 in 2008, 2013). He is trying to win his first hard court singles title since January 2014 in Doha (d. Monfils). He has played 34 hard-court tournaments, reaching eight hard-court finals since his last title on the surface. Nadal has not faced a Top 20 opponent at the US Open and the last Grand Slam champion to do that was Pete Sampras at 2000 Wimbledon.

The problem for Anderson is that Rafa has been looking less and less troubled with each match at the Open. He found his game in the third round against Leonardo Mayer—the Argentine’s game bears more than a passing resemblance to Anderson’s—and played with his old swagger in his semifinal steamroll over Juan Martin del Potro. Anderson’s serve alone should allow him to stay close in sets, and it’s easy to imagine him wiping away a dozen break points with it. But Nadal has played 22 more major finals than Anderson. That may be the only stat you need to know for this one.

“He played very smart from the second until the end of the match, because I was just standing all the time on my left side and once he played down the line, he won the point.

“I think at the beginning of the match, he was playing all the time to my backhand, trying to see how good is my backhand at this moment. It was good, but it wasn’t good enough to play a four-set, five-set match. And I couldn’t make any winners in the match, which you must do a lot of winners against Rafa.”

Hard courts will never be Nadal’s favorite surface. That will always be his native clay, to which his game is so naturally suited. But like few others, Nadal has continually tweaked his game, adapting it to compete and win on a surface that began as a challenge.

Had Rafael Nadal had never played a professional tournament in his life on dirt, he would still have a Hall-of-Fame career.

The world No. 1 has been uniquely willing to treak his game and work to improve, rather than stubbornly stick with something that has worked in the past.

Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza ensured a Spanish double at the top of the rankings next week, with Nadal set to stay No. 1 in the ATP rankings and Muguruza reaching the top spot in the WTA rankings for the first time in her career.

VIDEOS: 

  • Rafa on fire 🙂 Love it!

View this post on Instagram

🙂 #usopen thanks for this. #newyork #final

A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal) on

Wimbledon 2017: Tuesday practice photos and video

Rafael Nadal practises at Aorangi Park ahead of his second-round Wimbledon clash with Donald Young on Wednesday.

Wimbledon 2017: July 1st practice photos + video

Here’s a few photos from Rafa’s practice today.

Rafa prepares for his assault on The Championships at Wimbledon in a practice session with Grigor Dimitrov.